Leroy Collins, a retired land surveyor, has enjoyed philately since childhood. He also met his wife Cora through their joint interest in stamps. A member of several stamp societies, he is the Past President of the United Postal Stationery Society. Recently, I interviewed Leroy about his postal stationery collection.
ephemera: When did your passion for postal stationary begin?
Collins: Probably about 35 years ago, as a young adult. I have been a stamp collector since childhood. I was looking for something different as a collecting interest. Among the items offered at the estate sale of a local collector was a large box of postal stationery--mostly foreign. I agreed on a price with the estate’s agent and was allowed generous time payments.
By the way, postal stationery encompasses the many items sold by postal administrations with the stamp (indicia) already printed on the postal card, envelope, letter sheet, etc. No postage needs to be added unless a rate change has taken place, as on the 1919 U.S. envelope, or extra services are desired. Like stamps, postal stationery can trace its origin back to 1840, when Great Britain issued envelopes and letter sheets along with the famous Penny Black. In fact, those Mulready items are the only stationery listings in the foreign sections of Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue.
Collins: For current U.S. issues, like the Disney picture postal cards from 2006, most local post offices may not fully stock--or be aware of--the full range of current stationery items. The USPS’s Stamp Fulfillment Services can be a very helpful source. Call 1-800-STAMP-24 and ask to be put on their mailing list for the USA Philatelic catalog, a helpful resource as well. As with stamps, dealers operating at stamp shows or by mail order are excellent sources, as is eBay , with its wide range of categories and search abilities.
ephemera: What are your favorite items?
Collins: I began concentrating on the stamp, and later, stationery issues of Japan, when my family and I spent three years there--courtesy of the U.S. Army--while in my mid-teens. This interest has continued and even led to my creating a competitive exhibit on a series of Japan’s early-1900s commemorative cards, obtaining Gold awards at national stamp shows. Another of my favorite items is a 1894 postal card from Japan addressed to Neth East Indies (now Indonesia) but was mis-routed to India before the mistake was discovered and the card completed its 12,000 mile journey.
Collins: Collect what you like and what appeals to you. Some focus on a topic or theme, such as golf, horses or automobiles and look for both stamps and stationery items relating to their chosen subject. Some postal stationery items are quite elusive yet inexpensive and the hunt can be very challenging!
ephemera: What resources and tools do you recommend?
Collins: To assist in the hunt, arm yourself with a general catalog. Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue, Vol. 1 includes basic listings of U.S. stamps and envelopes. Scott U.S. Specialized goes into much greater detail and includes postal cards and all other stationery items. These references are available at most libraries and used copies just a few years old can be obtained from local stamp dealers. For foreign countries, availability of catalogs and references can vary widely. A number of catalogs exist, most listing the country’s stamps and stationery in a color format. A good basic reference also is the Higgins & Gage World Postal Stationery Catalog. Although its latest editions are about 30 years old it was published in letter sections or groups with those still being reprinted and available from stamp literature dealers. If you are interested in stationery issues of just one or two countries you can obtain just those sections.
If you don’t already, subscribe to a general weekly or monthly stamp publication, such as Linn’s Stamp News or Scott Stamp Monthly. And join the United Postal Stationery Society. It’s bimonthly magazine is loaded with information on U.S. and worldwide stationery. For $18 a year you will be well rewarded. The site also has links to other postal stationary resources.
For storage, albums, or binders holding 50-100 items and Mylar sleeves for individual items can be obtained at local stamp dealers or by mail order. Mounting corners, too...don’t use the old black photo corners. Collector supplies are also available from the UPSS Web site. As with any paper product, long exposure to direct sun can have detrimental effects, so keep them away from light when stored.
ephemera: Thanks, Leroy. This has been a very informative and interesting interview. I appreciate your thoughtful and detailed answers.
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